In the wake of the excitement about trans model Lea T, and outrage over moronic bookstores Barnes + Noble and Borders pulling Andrej Pejic’s genderfucking Dossier cover (an independent bookstore would never do that – just saying) it is time to throw some attention on one of our trans modeling foremothers, the awesome 1980s inter-sexpot TULA. I don’t think TULA is really spelled TULA, I think it’s meant to be Tula, but doesn’t it just scream to be TULA? If not TULA or TULA? You all know Tula. She was the video vixen in The Power Station’s Some Like it Hot video back in the 80s, shaving herself and getting her hair done and whatnot, all with mismatched neon eyeshadow, insanely great clothes, and massive feral-woman hair. Hotttttt. So we are all on the same page:
Tula was an English model who worked as a showgirl in Paris and Italy through her transition – and when I mean showgirl, I mean, like Nomy Malone-style showgirl! In the Pigalle in Paris! Okay I made that up, but where else does one perform as a showgirl in Paris, hmmm? I bet Tula was shaking her can-can at the Moulin Rouge! As for Italy, well, it may have been the more common dance so many of us ladies have danced whilst making a dollar. But whether her burlesque be on the high end or low end, Tula moved out of the cabarets and into the world of modeling!
Okay, Tula was mostly a ‘glamour model’ which I didn’t even know was a genre of modeling because Tyra never talks about it, but Wikipedia insists that it exists – it’s basically soft core sexy lady shoots. She modeled for Australian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but she modeled for Playboy as well.
Tula was cast as a Bond Girl in the 007 For Your Eyes Only. Just typing that has sunk that fucking Sheena Easton song in my head very powerfully. Because I feel like maybe Tula and Sheena would have been awesome besties – imagine it. ‘Hey, call up Tula and Sheena and see if they want to come over and lay by the pool!’ – I would like to include a photo of Ms. Easton:
Okay, back to TULA.
Let us all take a moment to appreciate Tula’s flowered Spandex. They look so good with that silky sea foam green top! Pause and take in the outline of the shoulder pads. Thank you.
Tula wasn’t out as being trans, because it’s none of anybody’s goddamn business, but then some tabloid creeps outed her and she had to deal with a bunch of bullshit. She selected the classy strategy of writing a book! Getting literary and making a dollar off the bullshit!
I am a Woman came out in 1982. Her editor would not let her publish it under it’s full title, I am a Woman, Assholes. In 1991 she published her second memoir, My Story, under her regular, non-showbiz name, Caroline Cossey.
I’m obsessed with the shift in Tula’s bangs between 1982, when she was sort of sexy-swoopy-Jerry Hall, to 1991, when she was pumping her bangs like a High School girl who snuck out of the house with her Republican mom’s bulky clip-on earrings. Oh, 80s. We miss you.
Like any European model, Tula had an exciting love life. Her first husband was an Italian Count (duh), who encouraged her to fight for her rights in her homeland – Britain would not recognize trans women as women until the early 00’s, but Tula was fighting it out in the court system for decades before that. She got The Man to recognize her marriage to her second husband, a businessman, as legal, only to see a judge later overturn the ruling. Her third husband seems to be just a regular guy (he’s Canadian) and they live humbly together in the dirty south.